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Hi! I have been making a few knives, and I'm hooked! However, I've decided that it's not super effective (or safe!) to do my grinding on the edge of a bench grinder wheel. I've already had it jump a few times, and that's scary. Also, you can't exactly shape scales on a bench grinder. So, I'm looking at belt grinders, possibly for Christmas. I'm on a pretty tight budget, so am looking for something under $150, preferably under $100. This seemed to be the most bang for my buck, but I'd like input on a 4 x 38 HF $65, so well within my pricing, sanding wheel, 2/3 HP, adjustable belt... What are your thoughts? I really can't go more than $150. Also, what are ways to preserve belts? I've heard of using a cleaner stick? Thanks for the input.

 

Chimaera

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4 inch is a bit wide, but its your call, 1 to 2 inch wide makes things a bit cheaper on the belts too, you are not going to get many belt options for that size either so research them as well

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In that price range they are all, more or less, going to be coming out of the same factories in China. They are just rebranded and sold as "Central Machinery" or "Porter Cable" or "Power Fister" etc. Honestly a lot of tools (grinders included) are that way now and as you go up the price range you are often paying for increased quality control and maybe a few upgraded components. That's not to say the grinder you linked to (BTW links to commercial sites are not allowed per the TOS, so that link may be removed) won't work and there is no way you're going to get your money's worth out of it. However you should be careful and try not to push it too hard as it's intended to be a light duty grinder. 

The main thing (and you can often see it in the reviews) is for some people it works great and they use it for years and for others it dies in <6 months of light use. You just don't know what one you'll get. 

All that being said, we all operate within our budgets so there is nothing wrong with getting a starter and using it to make a little money and save up for a mid tier grinder. Who knows, maybe yours will even last a long time. 

Maybe others will have a suggestion as to which grinders in that price range might be better than others. Anyway, hopefully my comment was helpful in some form or another.

Oh, one other thing to note, sometimes those grinders don't have enough clearance for the thick heavy weight ceramic belts many knife makers like to use so check for the price/availability of quality belts in that size.

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Belts will be the primary expense of using a belt grinder. I don't advocate going cheap with the grinder.  Can you inspect it in person and see the power rating?  (Use the amps and volts and calculate it as HP is a bogus number these days.)  Are the motor windings open?  If so they will suck in grit and die the death pretty rapidly grinding on metal.  

I would suggest practicing your smithing and sell bottle openers till you can afford something like a coote.  (I'm a Bader fan; but then I used one working for a professional swordmaker way back when I was young an impressionable---my late 20's!)

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I'm with TP on this.  Unfortunately just a new TEFC motor will blow your stated budget.   If you are willing to build one yourself you can definitely do some things to decrease the cost.   A 2x72 grinder will have lots of belt options.  For my first iteration of a grinder I bought the No Weld Grinder plans.  Since I didn't have most of the square tubing needed I bought all that new and again that would just about blow your budget for the steel alone.   If you have a good resource (scrap) pile you may be able to save some money there.  For the drive wheel I made one from wood and turned it while installed on the motor.  For the idler wheels I used skateboard (longboard) wheels until I could afford better options.  I also used a couple step pulleys to give me different speed choices.

The bottom line is if you will be selling your finished products you may have to do it the cheap/hard way for a short time, but if you save a little from every sale it shouldn't take too long to be able to afford something better that you can maybe upgrade as you go.

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Jeremy Fielding on YouTube has a lot of information about reusing old electric motors from all sort of sources, making a belt sander yourself is not that hard. But like TP said, those belt will wear down and cleaning them is not the biggest problem, its that just wear out and break. The wider the belt, the more abuse it can take, but that also increases the cost. Working the entire width of the belt makes it last longer. 

Over here in the Netherlands you can sometimes find some real nice factory equipment that are auctioned off because the company went bust, maybe look into something like that.

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Since you're in Ohio, there's a great industrial surplus place called HGR in Euclid (just east of Cleveland) that occasionally has good prices on used grinders (including Kalamazoo, Bader, and others). I paid about $50 there for my 2x90, but that was an exceptionally good deal. 

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Ok, lots of great replies here. My plan is not to sell my blades, at least not for a long time. I’m just looking to mess around, make some for myself and maybe a couple friends. Due to this just being fun, and probably light use, I think I’m going to stick with something cheap. I see some people suggesting used ones. I’ll look into those. Some are saying that they’d suggest a 1 or 2”. Is this just a price thing, or do those work better? Thanks

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The very first belt grinder (sander actually) I used was a 4x36" cheap machine from Harbor Freight.  It's not really designed for grinding metal or hard use, but I knocked out a few blades on it.  I would say that the 1 or 2 inch belts are much better suited to knife work, especially when trying to get into tight places or even grind plunge lines.  The belts I got for the 4x36 grinder were made for wood work I think, and I went through them quite rapidly.  The machine was also underpowered for doing any serious stock removal.  On the other hand it was probably still faster than hand filing, and a good set of files will cost more than one of those grinders and a few belts. 

I've never tried a 1x30 grinder, but I believe a few people on here have, so maybe one of them will comment on their experience.

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2x72 is pretty much the standard and so they make tons of belts to fit them of all different types---micro belts, hogging belts, weird abrasives, even a cork faced belt for mirror polishing using green chrome compound.

Belt sizes that are mainly used on wood have a lot fewer choices.

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it is generally recommended to have 3/4 to 1 HP of motor per inch of belt width. I seriously doubt your 4x36 has 4 Hp, its ratio is 1/.6 hp per inch iirc

I used a HF 1x30 for a while until I sold enough blades to earn enough to buy a Bader B3, wait for the $40 sale and there are 2 places I was able to get belts in ceramic for that size as well, its listed in the knife making supplier list

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Chimaera:  For a belt grinder, generally, bigger is better.  If all you can afford is a 1x30 then that is all you can use.  I have used a 1x42 for years but I do not do a lot of knife work.  So much knife work is bench work of grinding, filing, polishing, etc. and I would rather be hitting hot iron than standing at the bench doing all the non-anvil stuff that knife making requires.

The smaller the belt grinder the faster you will go through belts and the money required to buy them.

Get what you can either through purchase of building something yourself but if you can swing the next size up you will be well rewarded.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Yes and no (sorry for a lack of a definitive answer here). The nice thing about using files and sandpaper for all your finishing work is it forces you to work a little slower and think about where you want to remove material. With a belt grinder (especially ones that are single speed, like the one from HF [and mine]) it's much easier to slip and go too far.

However, with a belt grinder it's easier to take the forge thick, grind thin approach and you can power through what might take you an hour with files in 10 minutes or so. Either way with knife making you'll never escape the hand sanding, it comes with the territory. 

I guess all I'm saying is you don't need one, it's convenient, but you can make do without and still make really great knives. It's just going to take a little longer, which IMO isn't a bad thing, especially if you're just doing it for fun. Getting your files, bench grinder and angle grinder to play nice will help your belt grinder play nice when it makes it's way into the shop. Remember, there isn't some magic tool that comes along and makes everything easy, it just takes time and practice to get there.

I'll add a disclaimer that I would consider myself a novice blacksmith that occasionally makes knives, so take my advice with the appropriate number of grains of salt. At the end of the day it's your money/time/decision on what you get, the only things I would stress is when buying tools on the budget end it's always caveat emptor and no tool is going to make you a better maker of purty objects, that comes with time and hours spent at the anvil or at the bench or wherever. 

Btw I agree with JHCC to look if there are any used ones in your area. Maybe you'll be able to find something that you couldn't afford new but used comes into your price range. However, when buying used you should still do your due diligence to make sure it's in good shape before you buy it.

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BTW something I forgot to mention is a bench grinder conversion to a 36x2 inch belt grinder. I can't post a link to any commercial sites, but if you Google multitool 36x2 inch belt grinder, you should get plenty of hits. That was our first step up to a 2X72 grinder and if memory served they are close to your budget and ten times better than a 1x30.

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9 hours ago, George N. M. said:

So much knife work is bench work of grinding, filing, polishing, etc. and I would rather be hitting hot iron than standing at the bench doing all the non-anvil stuff that knife making requires.

This is exactly the way I feel. Too much fiddly work but on occasion I do find hand filing meditative. Just not six hours worth of it  ;-)

Pnut

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When I first started I really wanted to make knives, then I realized the forging part was perhaps 10% of the whole deal and hand sanding seems to go a lot faster when watching it in a time lapse video! 

But to each their own, I like seeing some of the things knife makers are doing, they are much more patient than I am.

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9 hours ago, Irondragon ForgeClay Works said:

a bench grinder conversion to a 36x2 inch belt grinder

 

9 hours ago, Irondragon ForgeClay Works said:

if memory served they are close to your budget

Unfortunately, it would seem they are in the $200-$300 range, which is more than I can justify...

As far as hand filing, I also find it rather soothing at times, especially since the blade's I'm making at the moment are kiridashis, so straight, ~2" blades. When I get into more complex blade shapes, and longer ones too, it seems like a belt grinder would be quite helpful...

I will look for one used, but if I'm forced to get one new, which would you guys suggest? 1X30, 1/4-1/3HP (calculated) for $50 or a 4X36 + 6"disc, 1/2-2/3HP for $65?

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The 1x30 seems more practical for knives, but IMHO if you're going to invest you may as well go with a brand that has more recognition than a HF base model. 

For example, the Grizzly G0864, which I am seeing for around $130, is variable speed and comes from a better known brand. It is pushing to the higher end of your budget, but companies with higher name recognition tend to make you jump through fewer hoops to return things if need be. Although HF can be pretty good about returns generally.

You said you're thinking Christmas right? Gives you some time to save up a little extra money to chip in if need be. Or at least to stock up on some belts, 

Again it's your choice.

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Ok, I wasn't sure which belt size would be more practical for knives. Well... While it's my choice, I have no experience in this. It's like me asking someone whether they'd like an African Butterflyfish or an arowana. They look fairly similar when you get them, but keep them for a month and you will certainly notice a difference. While it's their choice, I know that the arowana will grow to 4' long, while it's unlikely that they will. You think the Griz price increase would be worth it? Seems like a lot for a 1X30, but I'll take a look. Thanks for your help!

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Chi:  One thing to look at is the belt speed.  You may have to do some calculations regarding the circumference of the drive wheel and the rpm.  Many belt/disk grinders are actually designed for wood working and have slower speeds than is optimum for working metal.  The ones with wider belts (3"-4") tend to be for wood workers.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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